Waiting for the 'bounce back' at the food bank.
DESPITE THE sheer scale of New Zealand's economic crisis there is zero appetite for the kind of economic transformation necessary if we are to build a fundamentally different and more just society. Instead Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been issuing empty platitudes about us all Facing Tough Times together while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insists that its all about the 'bounce back'. Of course, if we are to believe Ardern, that 'bounce back' is going to be great. Maybe a spoonful of sugar delivered by the Prime Minister helps the bad medicine go down.
Meanwhile the National Party, outflanked by Labour on the right, can only claim that it has got a better plan to revive the market economy than Labour's. Tax cuts anyone? Are you excited yet? As Andrea Vance said in her newspaper column a week ago, having to vote for a lesser evil is no choice at all.
But, of course, we're not all going to be facing tough times. The wealthy have done well out of the Labour-led Government and with both a capital gains tax and a significant increase in income tax off the agenda for the next three years, they will continue to bask in prosperity. Wealth begets wealth. In a midst of a deep recession the propertied class continue to prosper. As one property commentator observed this week 'Land prices in Papatoetoe are averaging $1500 to $1800 per square metre since lockdown, well up on their $1000 or less of a year ago.' Its worth remembering the large swathe of parliamentary politicians who own more than a few properties.
While Ardern might talk of 'rebounds' any rebound will be one that the economists describe as a K-shaped recovery, because of the diverging prospects for the rich and poor. For New Zealand's one percent the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown is proving to be little more than a minor hiccup. Bar a few minor inconveniences, the lives of the one percent have carried on pretty much as usual.
That the pandemic has hit working class communities the hardest is hardly a surprise. Not only are the jobless figures climbing but the economy is also failing to provide an increasing number of folk enough work hours simply to survive. Homelessness is again on the rise. The queues at the food banks continue to lengthen. And neither Labour or National have any intention of increasing benefit levels. The generosity that Labour has displayed toward the rich is not being extended to the poor.
In April Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he wanted to use the opportunity provided by the coronavirus pandemic to 'reset the economy'. What he has done though is retrench New Zealand's existing chronic inequality that can only get worse over the coming months. That, folks, is the reality of Jacinda Ardern's economic 'bounce back'.